Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim in South Dakota
Unlike in many other states, employers in South Dakota are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, many do, as this protects them from individual liability in the event of a work-related injury or occupational disease. If you are injured on the job, you might be covered by workman's comp if your employer has elected this type of coverage. If not, you will need to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer if you wish to recover compensation for your damages.
Even if you are covered by workers’ compensation, you may find that it is not always easy to recover your rightful benefits after an on-the-job accident. If you are having trouble with any aspect of your claim, from the initial filing process to appealing a denied claim, we encourage you to reach out to an experienced workers' compensation lawyer in Rapid City to discuss your legal rights and options. We can discuss your legal rights and options with you and seek the best possible outcome for your case.
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What to Do After a Work-Related Injury or Illness
Whether you were involved in an on-the-job accident, were injured over time due to the work-related duties, or were diagnosed with an occupational disease, there are several steps you should take to protect your right to financial compensation.
After a work-related injury or illness, you should do the following:
- Evaluate your injuries and, if necessary, seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. Even if your injuries do not appear to be serious, see a doctor and receive treatment. Your health and well-being are of the utmost importance. Additionally, having a record of your medical care can be critical to the outcome of your workers’ compensation claim.
- Find out if your employer has workers’ compensation insurance that covers you. Generally speaking, you must be classified as an “employee” (not an independent contractor) to be covered by workers’ compensation. In most cases, workers' comp covers both part-time and full-time employees, as well as seasonal workers.
- If you are covered and wish to file a workers’ comp claim, you should notify your employer of the injury/illness right away. By law, you only have three business days to provide written notice of your injury/illness to your employer if you want to file a workers’ compensation claim, so do not wait to take this important step.
- Once you have notified your employer of your injury/illness, they should file a workers’ compensation claim with their insurance provider on your behalf. If they refuse to do so, however, you have the option of filing a claim directly with the Division of Labor and Management.
- Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider has 20 days to investigate your claim and either approve or deny it. The insurance company can request an additional 30 days to complete its investigation. While the insurance company is conducting its investigation, you should follow all your doctor’s recommendations and treatment plans. Do not try to return to work early, do not skip follow-up appointments, and do not do anything else that may jeopardize your claim’s approval.
We also recommend that you contact an experienced workers' comp attorney, like those at Beardsley, Jensen & Lee, for help if you were seriously injured or are having any issues with your employer or the insurance company.
Workers’ compensation claims are often denied, but having a workers' compensation lawyer means you'll be ready to immediately appeal, if necessary. Even if your claim was denied, you could still be entitled to benefits.
What Injuries & Illnesses Are Covered by Workers’ Compensation in Rapid City?
If you are covered by workers’ compensation, you are covered for any injury or illness you suffer in relation to your job. This includes injuries caused by traumatic workplace accidents and those developed over time due to repetitive motions and other job-related duties and activities. It also includes occupational diseases and illnesses that occur in relation to one’s employment.
Some of the most common work-related injuries and illnesses for which workers’ compensation claims are filed include:
- Traumatic injuries resulting from one-time workplace accidents
- Brain injuries, including traumatic brain injuries
- Back injuries
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries
- Commercial motor vehicle accident-related injuries
- Repetitive motion injuries (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Accidental amputation of a limb or extremity
- Hearing and/or vision loss (partial or total)
- Respiratory illnesses
- Stress and mental health-related disorders/injuries
- Spine/spinal cord injuries
Depending on the nature and severity of your injury or illness, you could be entitled to partial or total temporary or permanent disability benefits. These are a type of wage replacement benefit intended to help employees who are unable to return to work (temporarily or permanently) due to their injuries/illnesses.
Additionally, if you are covered by workers’ compensation, you could be entitled to medical benefits, which cover all costs associated with treating your injuries or illness. These include both emergency medical care costs and ongoing expenses, as well as transportation costs associated with traveling to and from doctors’ appointments.
What If I Didn’t Notify My Employer About My Injury Right Away?
A great example of workers’ compensation rules being interpreted differently than their plain language is the Notice rule. This is the rule which requires injured employees to provide written notice to the employer describing the injury within three business days after its occurrence. SDCL 62-7-10.
The problem injured employees are faced with, however, is that most of the time the employees do not want to complain unless the injury is serious. Then, two or three weeks later when the injury is getting worse and is serious, the employer or its insurer may deny the claim because the injured employee did not comply with the Notice statute.
These immediate denials may make sense to an injured employee, seem consistent with the Notice rule, and encourage employees not to proceed with their worker’s compensation claim. Instead, the employee may just rely on health insurance or not get treatment at all.
This is a BIG mistake that may cost you and your family for years to come.
Interpreting the Notice rule, the South Dakota Supreme Court has explained that “the time period for notice or claim does not begin to run until the claimant, as a reasonable person, should recognize the nature, seriousness and probable compensable character of the injury or disease.” McNeil v. Superior Siding, Inc., 2009 SD 68, 771 N.W.2d 345, 348, reh’g denied (Sept. 8, 2009).
What this means is that, if you did not think your work-related injury was serious at first (e.g., strained or pulled muscle), the Notice rule does not go into effect until you realized the injury was serious.
The safest route is to always notify your employer in writing of any injury you suffer while on the job. However, if you wait to notify your employer about the injury until after you think it is serious, do not give up when the claim is initially denied. If you find yourself in this situation, talk to a Rapid City workers' compensation lawyer at our firm to protect yourself and your family. You will be glad you did.
Why You Need a Rapid City Workers’ Compensation Attorney
South Dakota law does not require you to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to file a claim. However, it is in your best interests to work with an experienced advocate who can walk you through the process and help ensure that you do not make any mistakes that could jeopardize your chance of recovering benefits.
Workers' comp claims are complex, and a claimant could unknowingly make critical errors that bar them from securing compensation for their losses. Our Rapid City workers’ compensation attorneys can help ensure that your claim is filed correctly and according to the appropriate timelines. We can also represent you in appeals proceedings if your claim is denied.
Additionally, our workers' comp attorneys in Rapid City are well-versed with injury law. If necessary, we can help you bring a third-party work injury claim.
Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation
Regardless of the complexity of your case, Beardsley, Jensen & Lee is here to help you understand your rights and legal options. We are available to answer your questions and handle every aspect of your case so that you can focus on getting proper medical treatment and moving forward with your life.
We provide free initial consultations and do not collect any upfront fees. Instead, we are only paid if we recover compensation for you. Get in touch with us today to put over 100 years of combined legal experience on your side.